Star Wars fans got an early Christmas present when a teaser trailer for The Rise Of Skywalker was shown at the annual Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. Among the revelations is that British actress Naomi Ackie will be playing a new character named Jannah. Little is known about her origins (not even her last name), but it was a welcome addition considering there have been very few visible Black women in the storied franchise.
“All I can say is that the original group are going on this epic, epic adventure together, and I’m so excited about where Jannah crosses paths with them,” she says of Jannah.
“It’s wicked, man.”
Given how exhaustive Star Wars fans are about their characters and that Naomi Ackie is a fresh face, we rounded up some details about her that fans may want to know.
1) Where was she when she found out she was going to be in Star Wars?
“I was in bed. I got the call at like 7 o’clock in the morning. My best friend was sleeping downstairs and my dad was in the house and I yelped. My dad ran up the stairs and he just sat at the end of my bed and he had his hands on his mouth. I open-eye sobbed, but then my best friend was sleeping downstairs and I couldn’t tell nobody. I went down and made a cup of tea and said everything is cool. It was incredible. This is mind-blowing.”
2) Is Jannah Lando Calrissian’s daughter?
Jannah is seen wearing a kind of cape indicative of the Cloud City people who Lando lead. But Naomi is giving up nothing, for now. “Lando is a very charming man. So, he could have children all over the universe is all I’m saying.”
3) Naomi was Anna – not Jannah – in period drama Lady Macbeth.
“She’s a timid character who grows more fearful as the film progresses. She’s also very observant. She knows and watches everything. I guess we’re the same in that instance. I’m quite a perceptive person and can be quite introspective when I’m ready…I struggled playing Anna at times because she was constantly at the mercy of others. My sense of pride sometimes made it harder to show what I needed to show.”
4) Naomi Ackie studied at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama on the collaborative and devised theatre course.
“One of the main reasons I went to drama school in the first place is because I had no way of getting an agent. I used to spend hours when I was a kid just trolling through agents and, like, trying to figure out which ones and researching. My parents were, like, public sector workers, my dad works for the undergrounds and my mum worked for the NHS… there is something about patience with this job that you have to take into account when you’re working class. It might take a bit longer for people to get it.”
“I write on the Tube. All my best stuff was done on the journey from Swiss Cottage to Walthamstow Central. When I was in drama school, I went through a period of writing a lot of spoken-word stuff, and I’d wait until I got on the train. I think there’s something so nice about all walks of life crammed into one tiny space.”
6. And likes Yoga. “I’m a yoga girl. Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube is amazing; just a really good vibe and non-judgmental. She’s like, “How are you feeling today? If you’re feeling like you just want to do a child’s pose, go ahead!” And I’m like, “Thanks, Lesley. I do!”
7) Naomi won a British Independent Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. What did it do for her career?
“When you’re starting out, it’s quite expensive. What [winning] did for me in terms of that feeling of panic that you tend to get as a freelancer is when I walked into the audition rooms, I felt for me, I was kind of, I had a bit more of a solid spine because of it. And the directors are like, ‘Oh, she’s got a little title or something.’
"I’ve recently had to say no to a film, which is something I never thought I would have to do. If my career is like a gallery, then I’m like the curator. I want my work to make sense to my integrity and to my thoughts about who I am and what the world is… and this film conflicted with that. And it’s mad to me, like, even though, you know, financially I’m great, I had to push it away."
8) Naomi will be starring in an untitled Game of Thrones prequel.
“It’s got a whole different production team, different screen writers and it’s really offering up something along the same vein, but very different. I think people are really, really going to enjoy it.”
Photo by Bill Watters/WireImage/ Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images